Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 47:2 (Fall 1985)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

Henry Vander Goot: Interpreting the Bible in Theology and the Church. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1984. ix, 109. $19.95.

Henry Vander Goot challenges modern academic theology to return to the practice of interpreting Scripture in a manner that takes seriously its claim to be divine revelation. Scripture is only properly interpreted when interpreters allow their own worldviews to be reformed by Scripture, and view themselves as part of the scriptural story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. They are not to stand outside of Scripture and use autonomous reason and post-Enlightenment worldviews in order to sit in judgement on the claims of Scripture.

Orthodox scholars have, of course, issued similar challenges before. But Vander Goot broadens the previous argumentation by appealing to the insights of Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics, Hans Frei’s interests in narrative, and Brevard Child’s and Charles Wood’s interests in “canonical” interpretation. All of these scholars show us in one way or another the necessity of taking seriously the claims of the totality of Scripture on our whole lives and on our most cherished presuppositions. But Vander Goot, unlike Childs and others, will not allow critical scholarly research to go on its own independent way, as a complementary route alongside of churchly, believing, “theological” interpretation. Scholars, along with everyone else, must abandon their post-Enlightenment secularized worldview, and adopt the scriptural worldview as their own. It is refreshing to see Vander Goot utilize positive insights from Gadamer, Childs, and others without falling into an uncritical admission of limited “rights” for post-Enlightenment autonomous criticism.

I can only applaud Vander Goot’s vigorous affirmation of the primacy of the message of Scripture. But I should also point out one potential weakness of the way in which he argues his case. Vander Goot makes his affirmations within the basic framework of cosmonomic philosophy. Evangelical readers differ in their degree of sympathy for this framework. But Vander Goot uses the framework in a flexible, insightful way, so that the strengths rather than the weaknesses of cosmonomic philosophy stand out. Hence, by itself, this is not a weakness.

Unfortunately, Vander Goot, in using the naive/theoretical distinction of Herman Dooyeweerd, tends to oversimplify the relationship of theological scholarship to the church. The church’s “direct” (but not presuppositionless) reading of Scripture, as a pretheoretical stage, provides the worldview forming the proper foundation for a theoretical, scholarly stage of reflection. At this theoretical stage the scholar refle...

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